If you can have a post script can you have an ante script? I hope so because here’s mine.
A.S. At the end of the last edition I mentioned the quarterly gardening journal Hortus, well I have elevated its mention to the top of the page partly to emphasise what a good read it is and also to let you know that I write a regular piece for the journal – but don’t let that put you off. Take a look at www.hortus.co.uk.
Welcome to the second edition of ‘Is this the way to Amaryllis?’. It’s the usual mixed bag of gardening stuff but we start off with some unusual happenings.
Strange, angular, geometric patterns have been spotted in a field of barley in South Warwickshire, England.
A local resident said ‘This is none of your student on a string malarkey, it can’t be because it’s square. The rest of the world has crop circles but here we have crop squares, very strange. ’ When viewed from above the pattern is said to be exactly field shaped. It is rumoured that this large scale pattern can be seen from the moon or at least from the Great Wall of China. The local police force has not commented on this unusual spectacle.
A local farm worker sceptical about any alien connections blamed the weather, explaining that the straight lines were the ‘ tram lines’ that the tractors made when they were spraying the field and the soil compaction caused the wheels made the barley grow shorter but more sturdy or the extra light allowed into the row also made the plants stronger and more resistant to the effects of wind on stalks and foliage made heavy with rain. – Oh well, it takes all sorts!
The root of the problem?
|Lavender roots still twisting from when they were growing in the pots years ago.|
I was digging out some old lavender plants a day or two ago and as you can see in the picture the oldest roots were still curled in the shape of the pot they were in when they were planted. I have been asked before about what to do when planting plants where the roots are well established and curled around in the pots. Do you just plant them or do you try to tease out the roots?
Research by Tijana Blanusa and Ross Cameron has shown that one of the most effective ways of dealing with this problem is simply to prune the roots of the plant with secateurs. This root pruning has the effect of stimulating new lateral roots just above the end of the cut roots and these roots will grow out in to the surrounding soil. As part of their experiments they cut off up to half of the roots off pot grown shrubs as well as trying a less severe root pruning regime and in the subjects they used , Buddleja and Cistus, the plants benefited more from having their roots lightly pruned than having them teased out at planting. Common sense has to be applied as to how deep you cut into the root ball but with a 2 or 3 litre pot plant you might cut in to half the length of your secateurs’ blade in four places around the pot but that is a very rough guide for people who haven’t a clue about anything. Use old secateurs because the grittiness of the compost will dull the edge of your best, shiny Felcos.
Does this curling of the roots really make any difference to the well being of the plant? The lavenders in the pictures grew well for many years and were only being removed because they were too big for where they grew so you could argue that no, it made no difference in this case, though how much better and sooner they might have established if the roots had been trimmed is open to debate.
Where this root curling is a real problem is when you are planting a tree. A tree is going to rely on a strong and even root system, well attached to the trunk, to secure it in the ground and a keep it upright in the strongest of winds. To avoid the root circling problem altogether there is a very good argument for using well grown, well prepared, good quality bare root trees if the long term welfare of you trees is a consideration.
‘Don’t dig there , dig it elsewhere, you’re digging it round and it ought to be square………….’
So sang Bernard Cribbins in 1962 in his song ‘Hole in the Ground’. Some years ago I remember reading in the trade magazine Horticulture Week that it was now recommended that planting holes should be square and the accompanying picture showed a man planting a Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Squarrosa’ ( a perfectly legitimate name) . The issue was dated 1st April.
Now I find that life is imitating humour. It is now recommended by the RHS that planting holes are indeed made square. Older readers may well be chuckling and thinking of all the successful plantings they have made in round holes. My initial response was to roll my eyes but after a moments consideration you realise there is a quite a lot of commonsense in this idea. We have all seen how roots will run around inside a pot when they come up against the resistance of the pot side so it seems not wholly unreasonable that roots planted into a round hole in heavy soil back filled with friable compost may well follow the ‘wall’ of heavy soil around the sides of the hole and not get easily out inot the heavier surrounding soil. By making a square hole you will encourage the roots to break out at the corners. Sounds reasonable? I am sure this would not apply to light soils but when you are trying to establish plants in heavy clay soils anything that might give your plant a better chance should be tried.
Blox Bight (recte sic)*
|Box blight is more likely, though not exclusively, to occur on tightly clipped plants.|
|Box blight showing characteristic brown, oily looking damage to leaves.|
The recent warm and undoubtedly wet weather has provided perfect conditions for box blight to develop at least that’s what I have concluded from the fact that in the last week I have come across two outbreaks. One is in my garden on a recently bought in plant and the other on a hedge, (the one in the pictures), which has been established for some years. This observation bears out the information given out in Beatrice Henricote’s thorough and comprehensive review of the disease in The Plantsman. New Series Vol. 5 Part 3 Pages 153 – 157. In the review it says the infection by the fungus is rapid in warm ( 18 – 25 C ) and humid conditions. The rapidity can be judged by the fact that the hedge in the pictures was healthy a week previous. The most frustrating part of the Box Blight story is that when the disease was first discovered in the nursery trade, rather than destroy possibly infected stock, they decided to treat it with chemicals that stopped the mycelium growth and inhibited the spore germination but which did not kill the fungus. There are no chemicals available to the amateur that can be said to control the disease. The RHS website will give you advice as to how you can best deal with the problem.
*This may well be completely misapplied but I thought it looked good.
|Dog Blight on Box usually affects corner plants or isolated specimens.|
So here are the rural musings of our agri-advisor Ivor Field.
‘Amazing what a bit of sun can do – everyone seems so much happier! Even being caught up behind tractors and trailers collecting belated silage cuts is not such an issue. It’s time we took advantage of a decent weather spell and attempted to make some hay. This won’t have much nutritional value as it should have been made a month ago but we haven’t seen the sun since March and not a bale of proper hay has been made in the country up to this late July sunshine. I must see if Bill, my ninety several year old baler man is up for it again this year. I see that the Winter Barley crop has started to be cut . These fields are likely to be followed by Stubble Turnips (for winter forage for the sheep) or Winter Oilseed Rape which will sown in the next month – a feast for the huge amounts of slugs that have bred in the last three wet months. Another thing that seems to have thrived in the wet summer to date are the brambles in the hedgerows. Plenty of flowers are unfurling in this bit of sunshine and if the weather stays half decent then this should be promising – just as well as the sloes are scant and the April frosts have rendered a meagre looking plum, damson and apple crop by the looks of things. Looks like it will be Blackberry Pie only and just Gin then, for the winter months! The wet has also meant a huge breeding of midges, mozzies and Horse Flies – good news for the birds but bad news for those of us who seems to be excellent bait for the blighters. Where’s the Avon lady when we need her? Apparently Avon moisturiser repels mozzies brilliantly. I will have to do with Eau d’Oilseed Rape as I time the last of the spraying off (dessicating) of the Rape crops which is more necessary this year due to the drawn out flowering of the crop, producing pods which are at different stages of maturity and not encouraged to ripen through the past dull wet weeks – luverly!!’
Many thanks Ivor.
From our correspondents………..
I have received an email from Miss Ann Nicra from Sunderland who says she has moved into a new house with a very small garden. It is 3m wide by 5m long. She says it gets quite a lot of sunshine and she wants to know how to get the most out of it. Ann, you don’t say if it is fenced round so let’s say it is. The area of 2 metre fence around three sides of this garden is 26 square metres compared to the 15 square metres of the garden itself so make the most of the vertical surfaces by planting climbers. A spouting water feature attached to the wall or fence would add the extra interest of sound but bear in mind the sound of running water can be a very pleasant sound but not necessarily if it runs continually when it can very easily drive you crazy – make sure you can easily turn it off for a bit of respite. You could install a mirrored arch or similar mirror feature to give a greater feeling of space. If you fit a mirror try to avoid positioning it so that the first thing you see in it is yourself. Try tilting at a slight angle so it shows more of the garden than you. Be aware that birds sometimes fly into a mirror thinking they have a clear way through but hit the mirror and break their necks and die.
A small garden can look very busy with lots of different plants creating a mini jungle and that is the way I would go. Bear in mind light is crucial if you want to grow a good variety of plants so try not to plant anything that is going to cast too much shadow over your small garden . Don’t let anything grow above fence height if it can be avoided. On the other hand you might want to go very modern in which case just spread a load of gravel around and chuck a few rocks here and there and hey presto a minimalist garden.
I am out and about over the next few weeks so if you want a chat you can give me a call on BBC Radio Oxford, 95.2 fm, on the gardening part of Bill Buckley’s Sunday Lunch programme every Saturday – just kidding- Sunday, 12 to 1.00. Don’t worry if you’re not in Oxfordshire, with the internet you could be gardening on the moon and still listen in and get in touch about your gardening problems. In fact we had a caller from the moon once who wanted advice on her garden because no matter what she grew or how she designed it just had no atmosphere. I will be on air Sunday 5 and 12 August then I am off to Southend, Essex for the ‘All about Gardening’ show at Garon Park on the 17 , 18 and 19 August. I will be part of the Gardening Question Time Roadshow sponsored by the Daily Mail and Scotts Ltd. Barry Gayton and me will be on the panel answering gardening questions and giving away garden prizes. Its good fun, come and have a shufty.
Prior to that I am at Canwell Show at Sutton Coldfield on the 11 August with the Roadshow. Canwell is one of the best and longest established one day agricultural shows. Come along, ask some gardening questions and buy a tractor.
After Southend I am off to the Royal Norfolk Show with the Gardening Question Time Roadshow. It is a three day show on 25th , 26th and 27th August near Norwich.
Looking good in the garden.
|The magnificent Datisca cannabina towering at three metres high.|
|No flowers at this time of the year just magnificent foliage on Euphorbia rigida.|
Bits and Bobs.
|Wheelbarrows! You can't leave them alone for a minute.|
|Butterflies, beetles, flies and bees all visit the hundreds of flowers on each flower head.|
|Eryngiums are great for attracting wildlife.|